Baseball: Huskies look to improve .500 record on the road against Fairfield
The UConn baseball team - fresh off a three-game road set against Cincinnati over the weekend in which the Huskies took two out of three and regained a .500 record - will travel to Fairfield today for an afternoon matchup against the Stags.
Despite losing 3-1 to the Bearcats in game one of last weekend's series, UConn (17-17, 4-4 the American) - led by Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Bobby Melley and Blake Davey - stormed back to take the last two by a combined 21-5 score.
Davey and Melley combined for 13 hits and seven RBIs across the three games.
"We really swung the bats more consistently throughout the lineup, and hits weren't bunched up, they were all scattered throughout the lineup, and it was good to see the offense finally clicking," head coach Jim Penders said.
Davey, a junior and the Huskies' designated hitter, was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week Monday. He leads the team with seven home runs this season, as many as the rest of the lineup combined.
"He and Bobby Melley have been our most consistent hitters," Penders said. "The thing with Blake is that every time he hits it - he does strike out - but every time he hits the ball, he hits it hard."
Today's game marks UConn's 27th non-conference game of the season. The Huskies enter the matchup with an even 13-13 record against non-conference teams.
Penders said freshman right hander Andrew Zapata will get the ball this afternoon against the Stags, making his sixth start of the season. He threw six shutout innings in a 2-0 win over Northeastern in his last start on April 8.
"He's coming off a good start and hopefully he'll have another one tomorrow," Penders said.
Zapata is one of three freshman pitchers who have taken on workhorse roles for UConn this season, with starter Anthony Kay and reliever Pat Ruotolo rounding out the trio.
They have combined to make 36 appearances - including nine starts - and pitch 101 innings through 34 games.
"They've been baptized by fire," Penders said of the group. "We've taken our lumps with them earlier in the season, but they seem to hitting their stride a little bit after having some failure. They've learned how to adapt and overcome that failure and learn from it."
UConn will be taking on a Fairfield (16-14, 8-3 MAAC) team that, like the Huskies, has won four of its last five games. The Stags have also been strong at home, boasting a 4-1 record at Alumni Baseball Diamond this season.
Penders said Fairfield head coach Bill Currier - who took over the program 2011 - has been key in the Stags' success in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, where they are currently in second place behind Siena.
"They don't beat themselves," Penders said. "They're pitching on par with their opponents, they're not hitting on par with their opponents and they've got a winning record, that means their coach is doing a good job of putting guys in the right spots late in games and finding a way to hang on to win."
Penders said Fairfield's roster, like those of the four other Connecticut teams UConn has played so far this season, has a few players on it who will "have a little extra to play for" against the rival Huskies.
"I look at their roster and say, 'Oh, he was at camp, that kid was at camp, that kid was at camp,' and you realize we didn't recruit him, we didn't recruit him and we kind of half recruited him but not really, and they've all got an axe to grind," Penders said, referring to the many in-state players UConn spurned when they were in high school.
Although the Huskies have been playing some of their best baseball of the season recently, Penders said there are too many games left on the schedule to be patting himself or anyone else on the back just yet.
"Baseball's funny, you just can't get too high or too low, because when you do it'll humble you really quick," Penders said. "We're trying to stay even keeled. I haven't thought a lot about the last five games. I have a really hard time looking backwards. Really all I'm thinking about is who the heck's pitching against us for Fairfield [today] and how we can hit that guy."
First pitch this afternoon is set for 3:30 p.m. Coverage of the game can be heard on 91.7-WHUS.
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